An emergency medical services (EMS) dispatcher takes calls from patients in need of medical assistance and informs an ambulance on call of the location along with any information about the person’s condition. When a person calls in for assistance, the EMS dispatcher takes information regarding the emergency, gives instruction for performing certain lifesaving procedures until help arrives. He or she also gives information to paramedics en route so that they can be adequately prepared upon arrival. The dispatcher may also be in charge of contacting local authorities, such as police, if the emergency involves injury related to a crime.
In most cases, the EMS dispatcher is informed of an emergency through direct contact via telephone. This is not always the case, though, as there are new technologies which may also elicit a medical response. The first is the removal of a defibrillator from its housing in certain locations, such as a nursing home. Many jurisdictions have the device connected to a phone line, and the EMS dispatcher is automatically alerted when it is removed. Another example is the use of pendants or bracelets, such as Lifealert®, which features a button in the center. When pushed, an EMS dispatcher is called automatically.
The majority of EMS dispatchers have to undergo certification in order to perform their jobs effectively. Since they are required to give medical advice to people in distress, they must learn certain lifesaving techniques and procedures such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). An EMS dispatcher must also learn to interact with the public, primarily those who are distressed and often panicked. He or she must be able to stay calm in any situation to give advice and offer assistance as quickly as possible.
In many areas, primarily in large cities, the EMS dispatcher may be required to field and handle several calls at the same time. By routing and responding to so many distressed patients at once, stress levels for this job are often extreme. “Burn out” and other job related anxieties are commonly reported, so those with a high stress threshold may be best fitted for this career field.
The final job of an EMS dispatcher is to record all calls for quality assurance purposes and legal reasons. He or she may be required to call the home of the patient to ensure that help has arrived, or to ensure that things were handled properly by the paramedics and other emergency personnel on the scene. This helps to ensure that calls are consistently handled correctly and that the public gets the care needed.